By Emsie Martin
What do you remember from your first day of school? Perhaps just the photo Mom took in the garden where you posed for a photo just before you left for school. Or perhaps it’s the tears when you had to leave your mother’s side to go to the teacher? Or perhaps it’s that first school photo taken in the library where you appear with funny hair and teeth too big for your mouth.
Thanks to today’s preschool education going to big school is no longer a scary thing. Most children arrive there with a big smile on their face and with a sense of expectation. These days the parents are the ones who have to brush away the tears. However, it is normal for your child to feel a little scared and insecure.
Below follow a few tips from the experts:
- To take the uncertainty out of the first school day do some preplanning.
- Stick a visual calendar up on the wall a month or two before the big day and let your child count the sleeps.
- Reassure your child and explain that school is a place where you are going to learn new things and make many new friends.
- After the long December holidays, a time of late nights and lazy mornings, it is a major adjustment to get up early in the morning and to get a proper night’s rest before the first school day. Help make this transition easier by establishing a school routine a week or so before the time.
- Whether you walk or drive to school make sure you know how long it is going to take in the mornings to get to school so that it does not end up in a mad rush in the end.
- These days, preschool classes visit the big school they are going to attend during the last term and they also meet their Grade 1 teachers. If your child missed out it is perhaps not a bad idea to arrange such a visit before the time.
- Talk to your child about the big day. That is how you will find out what he feels anxious about and what he is looking forward to.
- Buy all your child’s stationery, school uniforms and shoes, lunchbox etc. in advance and mark all the items. Most schools send out a useful list for the lower grades but if not, take it upon yourself to ask for a list and buy the items as soon as possible.
- Make sure your child knows what the school hours, activities and aftercare arrangements are (if applicable).
- Your positive attitude towards school is passed on to your child.
- Assure your child that he can come to you with any problems/challenges at school so you can find a solution together.
- Make sure your child is independent when it comes to dressing, tying shoelaces, using the toilet and washing hands after using the toilet. This is really important in our times now. Your child should not be shy to ask to go to the toilet either.
- Organise the previous evening to avoid the morning rush. Help your child to pack his school bag and make sure his school uniform is ready, shoes are polished and his hair is washed and his nails are clean. Make sure everyone is up early so there is enough time to get ready.
- Make your child part of the decision of what goes into his lunchbox. Make sure your child has a good breakfast. This helps with his energy levels during the rest of the day. A hungry child cannot concentrate. Avoid sweets and fizzy drinks.
- Put in leave for that first day if necessary. In so doing you can make sure you are calm to take your child to school and pick him up on time and you also have time to talk unhurriedly about the first day.
- Often young ones are shy to meet a new teacher. Accompany your child to the classroom on that first day. Tell the teacher if there are any special interests or challenges your child has.
- Try to suppress your emotions in the presence of your child. Rather cry on your friend’s shoulder.
By reading books about going to school with your child you can start conversations on the excitement and anxiety of going to real school. Moreover, it is a very good way of establishing a reading habit.
Hanlie Snyman, an educational psychologist in private practice in Durbanville, suggests the following useful literature on this topic:
• Hartmann, W. and Rankin, J. Sisi gaan skooltoe en ander stories. Human en Rousseau, 2013
• Greven, Alec. Rules for School. Collins, 2010.
• Rankin, Joan. Die Eerste Dag. Pan Macmillan, 2009.
• Forward, Toby. The First Day of School. Picture Corgi, 2005.
For more information visit her website www.hanliesnyman.co.za.
Also read: https://www.vitanova.co.za/help-my-kind-gaan-graad-1-toe/